County employees asked to sign confidentiality agreement

April 24, 2008 3:21:41 PM PDT
If you're one of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's top people you have to be able to keep a secret. They are now required by Stroger to sign a confidentiality agreement.

You'll find confidentiality agreements in the private sector as a regular part of doing business. It's unusual for local government to require such an agreement. Some county employees are being asked to agreed to keep quiet once they leave county government.

Some Cook County employees received an unusual e-mail recently. An e-mail marked confidential was leaked to the Chicago Sun-Times. The memo was sent to bureau chiefs, department heads, employees in the communication office and board president Todd Stroger's office. It requests the employees sign a confidentiality agreement. The agreement prohibits disclosing information relating to work under the office of the president, personnel files and personal information about employees and elected officials, as well as communication to or from Todd Stroger and Stroger's schedule, phone and e-mail records.

"I don't think it's really going to be that effective. I think it's a silly distraction which does nothing to advance or address the serious problems the county faces," said Jay Stewart, Better Government Association.

Stewart is the executive director of the Better Government Association. He says the agreement is an odd request from a politician who campaigned on an administration of openness and transparency.

"This is one of his, you know, issues he talked about a lot. And it seems like they're more concerned about essentially trying to stop leaks as opposed to informing the public about what's really going on," said Stewart.

The spokeswoman for Cook County e-mailed a statement saying: "The purpose of the agreement is to ensure that our employees, who are working with confidential information and documents or in receipt of information that may be deemed confidential, refrain from any disclosure without a proper freedom of information request or appropriate authorization."

Attempts by ABC7 to interview the attorney who drew up the agreement were not successful Thursday.


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